Pros & Cons

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In her influential book The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm wrote that the journalist is ‘a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse’. Blood Will Out shows just how wrong Malcolm can be. It’s the true story of Walter Kirn, a street-wise, […]

José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo & Mario Alberto Crespo Ayón

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The disappearance and alleged massacre of forty-three Mexican students after clashing with police on 26 September 2014 in the southern city of Iguala made international headlines. Members of a drug cartel claim that the students were handed over to them by the police. In November the former mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca, was charged […]

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Larry on Tour

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In The Stray American, Wendy Brandmark’s accomplished – if frustrating – second novel, the author returns to the theme of alienation that characterised her debut, The Angry Gods. Larry Greenberg leads an unfulfilling existence in London, falling into bed with women who never ask him to stay the night and spending his days teaching law […]

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Man of Mystery

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Jonathan Barnes’s new book is a labyrinthine literary thriller that cleverly plays with ideas of authorship and text, while satirising our obsession with money and celebrity. With the rise of the internet and e-books, the terrifying question arises: can a text be stable? Would we notice if, say, Orwell were edited, subtly, year on year, […]

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Melba Alone

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The plot of Joanna Ruocco’s dazzling new novel can be captured in two short sentences. Melba Zuzzo, one of the few remaining women in the small town of Dan, cycles to work at her local bakery. Later that day, she loses her job and her landlord tells her that she has been evicted. In outline, […]

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Hearts of Darkness

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Unlike many Americans – and American novelists – Denis Johnson travels confidently into continents other than his own. He has escorted readers into the rebel-occupied Nicaraguan jungles of The Stars at Noon, and across the drug-addled battlefields of Vietnam in the National Book Award-winning Tree of Smoke. Like Robert Stone or Paul Bowles, the writers […]

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Between the Sheets

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Richard Bausch’s novella Peace received high praise from discerning critics when it was published here in 2009. They saluted it for the very quality that is notably absent from his latest novel, Before, During, After – an economy of means that works to powerful emotional effect. Almost everything in this book is overdone and overwritten, […]

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Flashes of Light

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In its title alone, Andrew O’Hagan’s fifth novel packs in a lot. The Illuminations refers to the famous Blackpool lights, to tracer fire over Helmand and to the moments of lucidity experienced amid senile dementia. In its brutal and compelling portrayal of war in Afghanistan, the book attempts to say something important about the contradictory […]

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Sex, Drugs & Blueberry Flans

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

More than halfway through Adam Thirlwell’s third full-length novel, our bruised narrator lights upon an idea. ‘I had this vision very clearly of a book in which I would record my total experience,’ he explains, not having given the impression of being a reader and so unlikely to know that such projects are presently in […]

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Lengthening Shadows

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Although the title carries a whiff of hipness (it’s a song by the Manchester band Happy Mondays – the author once worked for New Musical Express), an unhipper collection than Wrote for Luck is impossible to imagine. This book is a field guide to an endangered species: the cultivated liberal middle classes, the kind of […]

The House that Junior Built

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Anne Tyler’s 20th novel will bring joy to her legions of admirers. It is the story of three generations of the Whitshank family, starting with Junior, his wife and two children, and, most importantly, the house he built, the repository of his life’s significance. The house passes down through the generations, along with Junior’s construction company and the inherited twists of character and talent that reappear in different permutations, nature and nurture at odds, surprising and unquenchable.

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I Told You So…

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I know a chap who knew a girl whose mother told her that one day a vicious ogre who, ever since drinking a bottle of Coke with a dead mouse in it, had been living in the sewers of New York as a crocodile and one day he slithered in through the bedroom window and ate […]

Our Man in the City

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Martin Vander Weyer, The Spectator’s veteran City correspondent, was born to the business purple. The son of a Barclays executive, he followed his father into the bank, trotted the financial globe and had an inside view of that venerable institution’s near-death experience in the 1990s, which he chronicled in his first book, Falling Eagle: The […]

From Gold to Lead

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘Tory dossier says Labour will cancel cuts to the arts budget. We won’t.’ So tweeted the Labour press office in the first week of 2015, fashioning a first-rate PR balls-up from its efforts to defend the shadow chancellor’s spending policies. There’s no easier way to rile the arts establishment in Britain than by disparaging its […]

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